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AMSTERDAM -- Ahold here yesterday posted sales of 14.1 billion euros for the first quarter of 2006, reflecting an increase of 8.6 percent over the year-ago period. Even excluding the impact of currency, net sales at the company rose 2.1 percent. Still, the retail conglomerate acknowledged that during the quarter "market conditions remained competitive and, particularly in the United States, energy costs continued to impact consumer behavior."
Ahold further noted that in its U.S. retail arenas, "gross margin will benefit from the discontinuation of sales from Stop & Shop to Bi-Lo/Bruno's, the divestment of low-margin Tops convenience stores in 2005, and continued focus on inventory shrinkage."
For the Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover arena, net sales declined 0.8 percent to $5 billion; although excluding the net sales to Bi-Lo/Bruno's of $83 million, net sales rose 0.9 percent. Identical sales at Stop & Shop fell 1.3 percent (or 2.2 percent, excluding sales of gasoline), while Giant-Landover's identical sales decreased 2.5 percent. Comparable sales at Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover both went down, by 0.8 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
The Giant-Carlisle/Tops arena saw net sales plunge 5.6 percent to $1.8 billion, mainly because of the divestment of Tops stores last year. Giant-Carlisle's identical sales at grew 2.9 percent (1.5 percent excluding sales of gasoline), but Tops' identical sales at Tops declined 6.5 percent (7.3 percent, excluding sales of gasoline). Although comparable sales at Giant-Carlisle rose 5.1 percent, they fell 5.5 percent at Tops.
U.S. Foodservice net sales went up 3.8 percent to $5.8 billion, although Ahold pointed out that net sales at the division were adversely affected by about 1 percent because of the decision to exit the Sofco business in the third quarter of 2005. Inflation had a negligible impact on quarterly comparisons, Ahold said. Net sales at U.S. Foodservice's Broadline company grew 3.9 percent to $5.1 billion, while net sales at North Star Foodservice went up 3.6 percent to $747 million.
Of Ahold's European arenas, Albert Heijn in the Netherlands performed the best, with arena net sales up 4.8 percent to 2.1 billion euros; retailer net sales up 4.6 percent to 1.9 billion euros; and identical sales up 3 percent.